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Aug 8, 2017

Interview with Claire Brown

Hosted by Nate Pfaff 

Claire Brown was born and raised in Minneapolis, went to Northwestern for college but always saw herself eventually coming to NYC. She lives in Williamsburg and works for Sugarlift, an online gallery, and art consulting company. They connect young, talented artists with art buyers.

She’s observed that abstract, colorful, impressionistic, big statement pieces as most in demand right now. Artists have to have an original vision combined with technical skill in order to succeed in the art world. Her job is to match skilled artists with people who are looking to fill their homes with art in line with their own taste and vision. One her company’s goals are to help sustain the artist community and allow them to work full-time as artists.

Greenpoint and Williamsburg are Claire’s favorite parts of Brooklyn. She's seen Greenpoint as having a similar character to Williamsburg but has less of the crowds and chaos. She recommends The Founder’s Dilemma by Noam Wasserman and The Art in Painting by Albert Barnes.

Claire Brown was born and raised in Minneapolis and moved to NYC right after college. She works for Sugarlift, an online gallery, and art consulting company. Her job is to connect young, talented artists with art buyers. One her company’s goals are to help sustain the artist community and allow them to work full-time as artists. She lives in Williamsburg and we’re very pleased to have Claire Brown on the show.


[1:32-2:01] Intro: Claire Brown was born and raised in Minneapolis and moved to New York City immediately after college. Claire currently lives in Williamsburg. She works for Sugarlift which is an online gallery and art consulting company. Her main job is to connect young, talented artists with art buyers. Her company’s goal is to help sustain the artist community and allow them to work fulltime as artists.

[2:01-2:18] Where did you grow up? I grew up in South Minneapolis in Minnesota. I then lived in Chicago for a few years during college and then moved to NYC.

[2:18-2:40] Why did you move to New York? It was a natural move for me after college because I never thought of moving to any other city. I knew I wanted to work in art and in art, if you're going to stay in the US, New York is the place to be.

[2:40-3:19] Did you move straight to Brooklyn? I didn’t. I was a journalism major in college and I double majored in Art History. I went to Northwestern University where they had a program where you had to work at a publication for 3 months during undergrad. So I lived in New York doing that and worked at Conde Nast Traveler. When I moved in New York fulltime, I lived in Williamsburg.

[3:19-3:58] Why did you choose Williamsburg? I always loved it. I had lived there for 6 months before moving in permanently and I just loved Brooklyn. Also, working in the art world, the salary tends to be a little lower and Williamsburg was a little cheaper than most places I’d seen in Manhattan.

[3:58-4:48] Your Company’s name is Sugarlift. What exactly do you guys do? We are an online gallery and art consultant company. We find young, talented artists who are 75%-80% New York based, but we also find artists outside New York. We represent them and sell their art as a way to support their careers. Through this, we help New Yorkers and other clients around the country find awesome, unique art for their homes and offices. Basically, we connect young, talented artists with buyers.

[4:48-6:50] What does an average day in the office look like for you? One of the things I like about Sugarlift is that there really isn’t a basic day. There are a lot of different things, which I like because it fits my personality well.

The routine is we get at the office in the morning and we do a team group at 9:00 or 9:30 and catch up on what we’re working on, the goals for the week, and put a little plan for the day just to make sure we’re on the same page. After that, it varies. For me, I spend a lot of time emailing with our artists where they send me photos of what they're working on, ideas on pricing, and then I do short phone calls with clients.

For clients, we have digital mark ups of art pieces. This is where if a client has moved into a new apartment and they have a blank wall which they don't know what to do with, I have an intro call with them and ask about their space, style, what type of art they like, what they don't like, their budget, and eventually I'll ask them to send me a picture of their home or sometimes I'll go do a walkthrough. With all this information, I’ll curate ideas for them. This is how I spend my day.

[6:50-7:41] So a lot of your work involves people who bought a home or those looking to fill a space with art? Definitely. When people move into a new home, they often times have more space than they had in their old place. So even if they had art in their previous apartment, they now have more walls to fill.

[7:41-8:22] What kind of art is in most demand right now? We’re seeing a lot of people that are looking for abstract, colorful paints - this is where you see the artist brush strokes – and also big, statement pieces.

[8:22-9:31] What are the two most important qualities of a successful artist? For me when potentially looking to bring artists in, I look for artists that are technically talented. Whatever it is they’ve chosen to do with their art, whether it’s oil painting or sculpture, I make sure they’ve mastered the medium. This means they can manipulate the medium in any way they want to to achieve the outcome.

Secondly, a person that has a meek and interesting point of view. There are plenty of talented artists now but if they're not doing something interesting that tells a unique story, I find it hard to look at.

[9:31-10:19] Stay in touch with the podcast by subscribing to the mailing list. Text Brooklyn to 66866.

[10:19-12:00] What’s the most unique or challenging job you’ve taken over the last few years? One that is challenging but also very rewarding is that we work with clients on doing commissioned pieces of work. Most clients that come around have really large walls which need large, unique pieces. So we ask them if they can have commissioned piece of work. This is awesome because they get to work with the artist who they develop a relationship with and finally they have a piece they helped contribute to which is just for their space. However, this is challenging because it's often hard for them to articulate what they want. This ends up being a back and forth process.

[12:00-12:39] Where in the city are you getting most business right now? I haven’t noticed a big trend in terms of neighborhoods. Our clients are mostly in Manhattan and also in Connecticut, Westchester, and Brooklyn. There isn’t a huge trend of a specific city or area.

[12:39-13:36] Do most of the artists you work with fit under the starving artist cliché or can they make good money? A big goal of Sugarlift mission is to have our artists be able to support themselves and sustain their careers as artists. Most of the artists we work with have other jobs on the side. Our goal is to sell enough of their art so they can reserve more time to make more art, but we’re not quite there yet.

[13:36-13:52] What’s your favorite area of Brooklyn? I'm biased to Williamsburg. Greenpoint is my new favorite and if I’d have to move from Williamsburg this is where I’d live.

[13:52-14:30] What is it about Greenpoint? Williamsburg is so fun and has so much going on but it has drastically changed over the years. Greenpoint has the character of Williamsburg but is less chaotic.

[14:30-14:59] What’s your favorite restaurant in Williamsburg or Greenpoint? I have so many. There's one in Greenpoint, Selamat Pagi that has amazing Indonesian food. Fette Sau and The Commodore are also on top of my list.

[14:59-15:32] Any art galleries or hotspot you recommend checking out? There are so many galleries but I don't go to galleries in Williamsburg that much. I mostly go to artist studios. A lot of our artists have studios in Bushwick and that’s where I spend a lot of my time as well as in museums in Manhattan.

[15:32-16:29] What professional advice would you give yourself 10 years ago? I was in high school by then so I would tell myself to be quick to speak up. It can be easy to come in at 22 and think that you just need to do what people tell you to do, but you have to speak up and know that you're there for a reason and people want to hear a 22 year-old’s voice. At 22, I always did what I was told and I wish I’d thrown myself out there a little bit more.


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